In the Super Bowl matchup between the Chiefs and 49ers,  we have an old-time matchup of an elite offense in Kansas City and an elite defense in San Francisco. There has long been the debate of what actually “wins championships”, but what side of the ball has historically had a larger influence in the big game?

SUPER BOWL PACKAGE
Game, Total and Props

While there are no concrete answers on which matters more for a single-game outcome, using Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value over Average (DVOA) metrics as a quick and dirty way to hash out a surface view, here’s a look at all the Super Bowl matchups since the NFL expanded to 32 teams in the 2002 season. 

SeasonAFCPointsOFF DVOADEF DVOANFCPointsOFF DVOADEF DVOA
2002Raiders2127Buccaneers48201
2003Patriots32142Panthers291810
2004Patriots2437Eagles21916
2005Steelers2183Seahawks10116
2006Colts29125Bears17202
2007Patriots14111Giants171813
2008Steelers27211Cardinals231521
2009Colts17616Saints31217
2010Steelers2551Packers3172
2011Patriots17330Giants21719
2012Ravens34131949ers3153
2013Broncos8115Seahawks4371
2014Patriots28612Seahawks2451
2015Broncos24251Panthers1082
2016Patriots34216Falcons28126
2017Patriots33131Eagles4185
2018Patriots13516Rams3218
2019ChiefsTBD31449ersTBD72
  • Super Bowl teams ranked higher in offensive DVOA over this span have a 4-13 record.
  • Teams with the higher-ranked offense have lost nine straight Super Bowls.
  • Teams ranked higher in defensive DVOA have an 11-6 record.
  • Teams ranked higher in defensive DVOA has won four straight Super Bowls. 
  • Top-5 defenses have an 8-5 record in the Super Bowl.
  • Those teams have a 6-3 record when not facing another top-5 defense.
  • Top-5 offenses are 5-11 in the Super Bowl.
  • Those teams have a 3-9 record when not facing another top-5 offense.
  • Top-5 ranked offenses have a 1-5 record when facing a top-5 defense.
  • Top-3 offenses have a 3-7 record when not facing another top-3 ranked offense.
  • Those teams have a 1-3 record when facing a top-3 ranked defense.  
  • Teams with a defense outside of the top-10 have a 3-5 record in the Super Bowl when not facing another defense outside of the top-10.
  • Those teams have a 2-4 record when facing an opposing offense ranked in the top-10.